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Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Know Something About You: Buried Secrets in David Kitchen Directorial Debut "Family Reunion"


"FAMILY REUNION" (2014)
Genre: Drama
Length- 10:30
Company: N/A
Website: Official

After their uncle dies, Karen (Karen Bryson) and Jason (Clint Dyer) reunite with their father (Trevor Laird) for the funeral.

Thing is, Karen knows something about Jason, and she's threatening to tell everybody the awful truth if he shows his face again.

And Dad's 60th birthday is coming up.

What to do, what to do?

A FAMILY ENSEMBLE

Most of the time, to avoid having difficulty with amateur actors, independent productions like to stay away from talky scenes, but in this case, actor turned writer/director David Kitchen brings his actors right out in the open.  The film is predominantly dialogue.

It's a gutsy move, but then, he's also got one heck of a good cast here.  We've got UK TV actors Trevor Laird, a two time veteran of Doctor Who, and Karen Bryson, popular for appearing multiple seasons on UK's hit comedy, Shameless.  We've got Clint Dyer, who has acted in theater, film and TV for the past twenty years, including roles in Unknown, Mr. Bean's Holiday and Sahara, among others.

If you're going to put your film in anyone's hands, I'd say this trio is about as strong an acting package as you are going to find, and they play off one another like the seasoned professionals they are. 

IN A FLASH

Also of note is the dialogue: these characters talk like real people talk.  The camera movement is fluid, and at times adopts the handheld approach, but never to the point where it becomes nauseating like some films I've seen.  In particular, the drinking scene in the beginning was shaky, but it made sense, and helped things feel just a little off kilter.

The story is told predominately through smartly shot flashbacks that play with the audience's concept of time.  We're never quite sure where we are in the story's timeline until each segment has completed, and that adds much needed tension and audience participation in what is in other respects a very domestic story.

The finale is ambiguous, but it works.  To show any more would be embracing melodrama, in my opinion, and melodrama is not what "Family Reunion" is about.  It's a searing illustration of how families have, at any moment, opportunities to either dissolve or become stronger. 

Kitchen's directorial debut is without a question a big success -- a serious drama that unfolds at a great pace and kept me guessing at each turn.

OVERALL SCORES:
 

Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Kitchen has a great ear for dialogue, and makes the most out of every line.  That being said, the core of the film isn't particularly original -- how many movies have you watched where there's a terrible secret boiling to the surface of an otherwise "perfect" family?
Directing: 4 / 5.  Some interesting visual choices from Kitchen here as he quickly defines his own style.  I loved the handheld in the beginning to accent how tipsy his characters were.
Editing: 5 / 5.  The film's pacing is perfect, never too slow, never too fast.  Every scene neatly segues into the next.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5. The original score by Abi Hercules and Paul Saunderson's two contributed songs bring out the tension in even the most outwardly tranquil of scenes. 
Acting: 5 / 5.  This is one of the finest acted short films I have ever seen.  The three leads of course do well, but I also want to point out that the supporting cast is also believable and effective.

Final Grade4.3 / 5.

For additional coverage of "Family Reunion", check out our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS with writer/director David Kitchen, and stars Karen Bryson and Trevor Laird!

Don't forget to check out "Family Reunion" at the official website and follow its progress to movie screens near you on Facebook!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!